In case you haven’t been trolling the literary blogs in the past week, we are happy to inform you that today is Bloomsday, the unofficial international holiday dedicated to canonical Irish writer James Joyce, and more specifically, to his most famous work, Ulysses. Though he has many enthusiastic fans (the man died over 70 years ago and still has young ladies dancing in the streets once a year to celebrate his life), he has always been a controversial figure in critical and social circles. For our own mini celebration of Bloomsday, we’ve put together a collection of some of our favorite quotes about the great writer and his work — some so flattering they read like silver-tongued worship, and some, well, significantly less flattering. Click through to read a cacophony of famous figures sounding off on James Joyce, and then get out there and decide on his merit for yourself.
“Joyce has a most goddamn wonderful book. It’ll probably reach you in time. Meantime the report is that he and all his family are starving but you can find the whole celtic crew of them every night in Michaud’s where Binney and I can only afford to go about once a week…The damned Irish, they have to moan about something or other…” — Jack Kerouac, in a letter to Sherwood Anderson, after reading Ulysses
“Mr. James Joyce is a great man who is entirely without taste.” – Rebecca West
“As for Joyce, he treated people invariably as his equals, whether they were writers, children, waiters, princesses, or charladies. What anybody had to say interested him; he told me that he had never met a bore.” — Sylvia Beach
“And Joyce was a poor sick fucker who probably died with his balls somewhere up around his navel. None of that for me, thanks.” — Hunter S. Thompson, in a letter to Lionel Olay (16 February 1962)
“I guess the man’s a genius, but what a dirty mind he has, hasn’t he?” – Nora Joyce (née Barnacle), Joyce’s wife